A fairer approach that has not gone far enough
- When comparing with previous budgets, the budget this year is closer to the Civic Party in approach and values. It is fairer and more balanced in allocating resources to look after the needs of different sectors and levels in society. This year, benefits to the upper and middle class total roughly 40 billion compared to around 20 billion for the disadvantaged. The proportion is 2:1 as compared to a proportion of 9:1 last year.
- Civic Party welcomes the government’s pledge of setting aside 50 billion from the fiscal reserves to promote healthcare reform. This is what we have been advocating. We hope the government will honour its pledge and demonstrate its determination to share the healthcare financing burden with the people.
- However, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The government has not demonstrated a long-term commitment to improving the livelihood of the underprivileged. In particular:
- It has rejected calls to increase the old age allowance and only provided a one-off grant of $3,000 to elderly recipients instead. However it has pledged to review the level of old age allowance by the end of this year, a pledge we will follow up on closely.
- We are disappointed that instead of introducing half-fare concessions for the disabled, the government has only agreed to provide an additional supplement of $200 a month to Disability Allowance recipients. We will continue to press for half-fare concession to the disadvantaged.
- Instead of considering the feasibility of universal retirement protection, the government is only willing to make a one-off injection of $6,000 into MPF accounts holders earning less than $10,000 a month.
- The government has finally begun to redress the immense difficulties faced by ethnic minorities but the small amount of $29 million is hardly sufficient and is evidence of its lack of commitment to racial harmony.
- We are disappointed that the budget has little to offer in terms of environmental protection, and is completely silent on the introduction of competition laws and the plight of sub-degree holders. In view of anticipated budget surpluses in the coming years, a government which has a genuine commitment to our society should offer more long-term programmes to improve our important social services, and not just concentrate on one-off measures to please the public